Following months of allegations for his involvement in a massive customs scandal, President Otto Pérez Molina has lost his right to immunity and is banned from leaving Guatemala. Crowds on the streets cheered as they heard the decision had been voted by Congress unanimously, and that the president is now open to a criminal investigation.
Numerous private citizens and government officials have also been arrested following the probe
First unveiled in April by an enquiry that was conducted by Guatemalan prosecutors and a UN-backed special committee, the scandal has caused the largest political unrest in the country in over two decades. The customs corruption ring known as La Linea (The Line) was linked to former vice president Roxana Baldetti, her aide Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, as well as the president. La Linea received bribes in order to reduce the customs duties paid by businesses by 40 percent, thereby defrauding the government of millions.
Mounting evidence led to Baldetti’s arrest in August, three months after her forced resignation. Numerous private citizens and government officials have also been arrested following the probe. Rojas, whom many believe was the mastermind behind La Linea, remains a fugitive – with authorities suspecting that he is hiding in Honduras.
Despite months of protests across the country, Molina refuses to stand down from the premiership, denying links to one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit the country. The public, together with well-known business leaders, have repeatedly called for his resignation, during which time a number of ministers and ambassadors resigned. Pressure mounted following a general strike last week that brought the country to a standstill, leading Congress to begin the impeachment process.
The Congressional decision comes just days before presidential elections are due to take place. As Guatemalan presidents are only eligible for one four-year term, there has been no intention for Molina to run in this month’s elections.